Seed sowing and the greenhouse

The greenhouse was delivered in March 2011 and so was too late to be used for sowing seeds that year.  I also needed to know how hot it would become in summer and if it could be used at all for summer crops.

Last year I sowed some seed but I started most indoors on a windowsill but then had to go away so they didn’t do very well as they didn’t receive enough light and I switched the propagator off worried about it starting a fire or just cooking the seeds.  I succeeded with sweetcorn (but they didn’t receive enough water when they were planted out so the crop wasn’t as good as other years.  To be honest my local supplier has a huge range of small plants ready to plant out in trays of 4, 6, or 12 (depending on type) and that is really about the right number for me to plant.  They are usually about a Euro and a pack of seed costs a lot more than that!  The only issue is that sometimes the trays aren’t named correctly; two years ago I ended up with a lot of tomatoes all of the same type when I had thought I was buying different varieties.  There is also sometimes quite a variation in the quality of the plants, which makes me think that many are grown from saved seeds rather than quality seed.

Italian gardeners don’t always want to grow the same vegetables that I do so those I have to grow from seed.  Sweetcorn comes into this category – here it is corn (not sweet) and grown as an animal feed, using vast amounts of water too, which never seems very environmentally correct.

This year I have started with more purpose!

I began on January 19th mainly because my Italian gardening magazine suggested that this was the best day for sowing Aubergines according to the moon. I sowed the following: Verbena ibrida, Nigella African Bride, Aubergine small round Vietnamese seed, Scabious, Suttons mixed, Broad beans, Coriander, Scabious Perfect Blue, Sweet Pea Beaujolais, Pepper New Ace, Pepper Beauty Bell.  All except the sweet peas went onto a propagating tray at 20°C.  But I didn’t use the greenhouse! I thought the great differences from day to night time temperatures might prove a problem so I’ve placed a seed tray stand in the spare bathroom on the third floor of our house.  This is giving me some extra exercise as the stairs in the house are all very steep!  The peppers and baby aubergines germinated in 11 days as did both varieties of Scabious; the broad beans were quicker at 9 days and the others are yet to germinate.

From the left, peppers, peppers,scabious blue, Scabious mixed, and Aubergine marble sized for Thai cookery

From the left, peppers, peppers,scabious blue, Scabious mixed, and Aubergine marble sized for Thai cookery

I sowed a lot of the small aubergines as the seed came from Vietnam and I was unsure of how viable it would be.  I will have to be very strong willed and only pick out the strongest seedlings.

The seeds are germinating quickly (I sowed the following on January 31st: Aubergine, long thin, Vietnamese, Leeks, lungo della Riviera, Helianthemum, rock rose, Digitalis ferruginea, Aubergine, White Egg French, Aubergine Round white flushed pink, French, Aubergine Loa Lavender, French, Clemone Pink Whiskers, Orange scented Thyme, Spinach, Pak Choi Red, Jekka’s Herb Farm, Sweet Marjoram, Monarda Bergamo). Of which the red Pak Choi from Jekka McVicar germinated in TWO days!

As I removed them from the heated tray and placed them into unheated covered seed-trays I found they were all bending towards the light coming from a north facing window – what to do?  I remembered that Janet at Plantalicious had rigged up a board using, I think, foil to throw the light back from the other side.  I did the same and so far this is working well.

Foil covered cardboard is working but I need to add more for the top shelf

Foil covered cardboard is working but I need to add more for the top shelf

I have already put the Pak Choi into the green house but without a cover as I am concerned that during the day the temperatures can rise.  After being badly organised for some time there is now a Max. – Min. thermometer in the green house.  I have been taking daily readings.  My fears about the variations in temperature are well founded, on Monday (February 4th) the daytime high was 39.7°C (yes that is nearly 40°C! and the night-time low on Sunday night was less than one degree, 0.9°C to be exact.  I don’t know how anything is surviving those kinds of temperature variations, but all the cuttings and small plants seem to be Okay.

Broadbeans are now in the greenhouse

Broadbeans are now in the greenhouse

I sowed the following 3rd February: Pak Choi green, Lettuce, Oak Leaf, Lettuce, Red Romaine, Parsley, Peppers d’Asti.  The Pac Choi has already germinated as has the Romaine lettuce. So I can look forward to some hours of pricking out as soon as the first true leaves have formed!

View of shelving in the greenhouse

View of shelving in the greenhouse

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30 thoughts on “Seed sowing and the greenhouse

  1. Ah how exciting to have begun sowing seeds; I am being much more restrained this year and waiting a little, though the greenhouse is already nursing lots of young plants that I grew late last year.
    The foil is a great idea of Janet’s.

  2. It seems as if you are making good use of the greenhouse so far this year. I sow very little in trays but I am obliged to sow some things like tomatoes to get the variety I want. Have you ever tried sowing your broad beans outside in the autumn? They are remarkably resistant to short cold spells and crop before being attacked by black fly.

  3. Oh I am jealous. Ihave a few things germinated in the propagator but the rest are waiting for the weather to warm up

  4. Italians are noted for their gastronomic delights, but they are really missing out if they don’t know sweet corn! I don’t have the room in my garden for it, but I am tempted to plant it anyway. I admire the variety of seeds you are planting. Your garden should provide you with some fabulous meals!

  5. What a fantastic set up you have Christina and such a wonderful variety of seeds to grow, you must be self sufficient ! We love our sweetcorn too, just as well that the badgers don’t know that I grow it, they love it too!!

  6. Wow! You have so much going on!! It’s amazing! Very excited to see how your aubergines for Thai cookery turn out, I’ve never grown those before. Very inspiring!!! : )

  7. You are off to a flying start Christina! I’m glad the reflective background seems to be working for you. I am about to go and re-arrange my own propagator, shift out some germinated seedlings and add some newly sown ones. I think this is my favourite time, sowing seed when the weather is still too cold and dark outside, it feels defiant and hopeful all at the same time. I can’t believe it was 2011 that your greenhouse was delivered! Time is flying by so quickly, I remember it like yesterday.

    • I know what you mean about this this of year and seed sowing, it is always so exciting when seeds germinate! I had to look up when the greenhouse was delivered, time just flies by

  8. My goodness that is some nice set up in house and in the greenhouse. I have not started my seeds yet as it is a bit too early. I plan on starting flowers next weekend. Then the summer veggies will be started in March and April as we plant them in mid to late May. Looking forward to all those seedlings.

  9. I love your set up! I have 4 small seed trays in a very improvised greenhouse on my kitchen counter. I just sowed pepper and tomato seeds tonight. I use coir fiber pellets for each seed and they’ve worked well so far. I also use foil. It really helps. 🙂

  10. Well, you have been busy! How nice to be able to get started already. I never thought to use the foil covered board to reflect light onto my plants. Very smart of you! I remember from many years ago when I took a photography class, we used a foil covered board to re-direct light for portraits. Thanks for reminding me of that trick!
    Have a wonderful day!
    Lea
    Lea’s Menagerie
    Mississippi, USA

  11. I can’t believe your greenhouse got up to 40 degrees in Feb. Incredible. It’s a fine balance between getting seeds started early enough but not too early. The light levels are awful here at the moment. Although the days are getting longer it is so dull and wet that I may have to employ the foil technique too. the postman might wonder what is happening when he walks past the kitchen window.

    • I can’t believe it either! It worries me what temperature it reaches in April let alone the summer. Light levels are mostly good here. I will put up the shade netting in March and only pull it back if we have very cold dark days. Nothing is easy is it? Christina

  12. A quanto vedo son l’unica italiana tra i tuoi commenti… un’attrezzatura fantastica… e quanto mi dispiace non poter venire ogni tanto a darti una mano! Sei bravissima! 🙂 Ma devo venire a prendere qualche piantina di fragola se ne hai ancora…

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